Monday, December 29, 2008


Needtovent is thrilled to report that our Smackdown comparing the 1951 classic version of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL with the highly anticipated 2008 edition has been ranked by Google Number One among 90,400 links to weblogs that reference these motion pictures. This Smackdown was first posted as a Guest Review for Bryce Zabel's and was added later that day to this blog as well as to Needtovent's official website --

Being Number One out of 90,400 total postings is quite an honor, especially when one realizes that our review was listed ahead of such venerable websites as Wikipedia, the New York POST, Amazon, Blockbuster, IMDB, the Village Voice, Discover Magazine, Aintitcool and even the official Buddist film and television review website --

We've always felt that and combine to provide the very best film reviews and analysis on the internet. On Monday, December 29, 2008, Google made it official.

It's Martini Time!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Last night I had a dream -- and with all due respect to Mr. King, it was a doozy, too. You see, I dreamt that a highly talented, totally outrageous musical ensemble would emerge from out of nowhere that would be bold enough, brazen enough to unabashedly attack "Political Correctness" with the same kind of reckless abandon that Bush exhibited when he attacked Baghdad. You know, just a little "shock and awe" for the au courants among us -- what few there are.

My dream band consisted of four guys (Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Marilyn Manson and Trey Parker) and three gals (Rusty Warren, Betty Page and Lisa Lampanelli).

Hey, it's my dream so just go along with it. O.K.?

When I awoke, I realized that my dream had already come true. (If only this would happen with my Anouk Aimee/back seat of a Citroen fantasy as well...)

Introducing FEYO Y LOCO, a Houston-based ebullient, eclectic, excoriating ensemble whose new album -- OVERNIGHT SUCCESS -- compliments their two previous offerings with more tour de force, hilarious hijinks that are sure to offend, yet again, PC Poobahs from Pocatello to Puntarenas. Among the deranged, daring, disavowing, deassimilation dazzlers found on OVERNIGHT SUCCESS are such clever, campy classics as BEN-WA BALLS, the bodacious ROADKILL BOOGIE, CORN IN THE MORNING ("When I see corn in the morning, I know I'm a regular guy") and the acappella anthem, THE BOOGER SONG. Yes, there's something for everyone, whether it be Dr. Demento, Wolfman Jack, Squeaky Fromme, a Mystic Light Rosicrucian, even a famous movie star like Schlitzie Metz. (As for B.P.O.E. members -- fugetaboutit. Guess you just can't please everybody...)

(Schlitzie Metz rockin' to the FEO Y LOCO paen to puberty -- SHE'S A SLUT)

For the record (pun intended), FEO Y LOCO is comprised of Tom Beard (towering almost 7 feet tall, Tom just might be the biggest guy in show business today), David Franklin, Jim Frye, Danny Lee, and the deliciously wicked trio of Shelley Burkett, Trisha Gerber and Jennifer Janek-Markey. Make no mistake, Tom Beard is not just another pretty, albeit enormous, face in the music business. This gentle giant has a fabulous vocal range which never fails to surprise -- even when one is totally sober! Add in a wide variety of musical styles, randy riffs and the occasional unexpected sound effect, and FEO Y LOCO is simply the best party band in the land. (I'm told that Paris Hilton has their phone number on speed dial.)

Be sure to check out the group's previous CDs as well. The original, FEO Y LOCO: EARLY FEO (1992), has been digitally re-mastered and RED NECK NECRO never sounded so salaciously sublime. Other tracks which especially touched the heart and soul of the Needtovent Staff are FAT GIRLS ("They're alright, they appreciate the night"), MICROWAVE CAT (a little dittie about a kitty -- banned by PETA -- but the calypso beat will have your foot a Tappan) and WHY DO I NEED YOU (When I've got my hand...") -- a masterful tune extolling the phallus/phalange palpitation paradigm.

OVERNIGHT SUCCESS and EARLY FEO CDs may be ordered from In addition, cdbaby also carries the 1994 album -- FEO Y LOCO: POLITICALLY INCORRECT, a third CD that is a must for all Feoheads as well. At a mere $12.97 each there is nothing out there that will provide more fun for less moola. In addition, you can also buy these albums and/or individual songs from your favorite download sites such as iTunes and

Come to think of it, the Christmas Season is upon us and what better time than now to have FEO Y LOCO spread a little joy and happiness? Just ask Schlitzie Metz...

Friday, December 19, 2008


"Dying is easy, Comedy is hard."

(Did you know that the origin of this quote is in dispute? Many believe it was first uttered by the famous actor, Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle in MIRACLE ON 34th STREET. In any event, it really doesn't matter -- truer words have never been spoken.)

Yes, dying is easy and comedy is hard -- very hard -- and it is especially hard if the comedy in question is being done as an ensemble piece. In fact, one can argue that while there have been a number of successful ensemble comedies produced over the ages, they remain about as rare as a gun rack on a Toyota Prius. Let's see -- there's Renoir's THE RULES OF THE GAME (1939), Bunuel's THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972), several of Robert Altman's efforts, certainly Richard Linklater's DAZED AND CONFUSED and SLACKER qualify, along with IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. This list barely totals a half-dozen, and while I will readily admit there are additional titles that deserve both consideration and inclusion, it should be obvious that the ensemble film comedy constitutes a very difficult genre to master.

And so we come to 3 DAYS BLIND, a relatively low budget, independently financed ensemble comedy that completed principal photography on August 10, 2008, and is now entering its final days of post production. Needtovent is extremely excited about having the opportunity to screen 3 DAYS BLIND well in advance of its release, especially since we have heard good things about this project for many months. The wait has been worth it.

The somewhat deranged minds behind 3 DAYS BLIND belong to the Keith Brothers -- Clete, the Writer/Director and Christopher, credited as the Producer and the Editor. Together, this talented duo has crafted a rollicking, frolicking ribald romp that's just kinky enough for Mr. Friedman to name a cigar after them. The script is blessed with more unexpected, delectable surprises than a Pupu Platter in Phenom Phen even though the entire story takes place in the course of only three days in the life of a decidedly dysfuctional family (is there really any other kind?) who have gathered to celebrate their father's 75th Birthday. Unfortunately, things just seem to get in the way of a quiet family get-together, minor things like death and infidelity (one involving flesh-to-flesh contact and another one or two that substantiates the Dow Chemical Company's claim: "Better Living Through Chemistry") .

As is always the case with comedy films in particular, much of the success behind 3 DAYS BLIND can be attributed to the on-screen performances delivered by the ensemble cast that was assembled to flesh out (pun intended) the madcap antics envisioned by those quirky Keiths. And while none of the cast members are household names, yet, they comprise an experienced, highly energetic and winning collection of talented actors who are sure to win you over.

Rad Daly plays Cameron, a low-key quotidian Quixote whose seemingly simple quest is to bring home his sister and adopted brother so the Blinn family can throw a surprise Birthday party for their aging father. What transpires instead would make Cervantes cringe. Rad's previous screen credits include SHANGHAI NOON and CRIMSON TIDE, as well as the role of Michael Pusser in seven episodes of WALKING TALL.

Tarri Markell is Theresa, Cameron's sister, a struggling actress who constantly puts the ixnay to her husband's e-Bay. You've seen her in such films as NECESSARY EVIL, AIR MARSHALL and DEATH TRAIN. You can see more of her here, and we can assure you that her shapely bare backside rivals the sensuous beauty of a Stradivarius.

Theresa's husband is Clark, a sybaritic internet auction-addicted loser who eventually finds a little gratification with an inanimate, unnamed fellow who owes his existence to the Dow Laboratories in Delaware. Christopher Best plays Clark, and his previous credits include INSTANT TRAUMA, BAD COMPANY, and our personal favorite, the guy in the T-Bird in LOBSTER MAN FROM MARS -- a 1989 release that clawed its way to box-office obscurity.

Brett Anthony, best known for his portrayal of John Ritter in the NBC docudrama, "Behind The Scenes: The Unauthorized Story Of Three's Company" (2003), is cast as the adopted brother, Mickey, a rather bitter pothead with more demons than Malfeas. Who else but Mickey would be attacked from behind by a dishwasher? (This brief scene brings a whole new meaning to the Maytag brand.)

The Girl is Mickey's mysterious, nubile, oh-so-slinky traveling companion. Christy Reese is a relative newcomer, but her sexy, charismatic, comedic charm will surely find her cast in many films to come.

Regan Burns' portrayal of Police Officer Van is so droll it may very well rival Robert Cox's performances in Merrie Olde England in the seventeenth century. Burns' credits include many prime-time television credits including "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" and "RENO 911."

Unfortunately, time and space limitations preclude us from listing all of the other performers, but rest assured that they, too, do a terrific job, as does the entire crew. 3 DAYS BLIND may be a low budget endeavor, but it doesn't look it, so congratulations to Executive Producers Art Bergel, Susan Fowler and Greg McDonald for insuring that the entire budget, modest as it may be, is on the screen where it belongs. We see no need for a government bailout here...

Before closing, we at Needtovent want to acknowledge the hilarious coitus interruptus sequence towards the end of 3 DAYS BLIND. Not only is it funny as hell, but it is an excellent and effective use of mise-en-scene, a cinematic technique rarely employed in American cinema since the days of Otto Preminger. For all of you Film 101 Students out there, mise-en-scene is a more contemplative cinematic technique for telling a story -- it places all of the elements necessary to propel the action within the frame (and not just shown via individual back-and-forth cutting). Today, montage rules, but kudos to the Keith Brothers for employing mise-en-scene here. It works, it works well, and we will bet a dollar to a doughnut that you'll spend your time focusing just as much on the intimate indescretion taking place in the background as you will the dialogue in the foreground. We know we did, we think Stradivarius would, and we'll wager a Krispy Kreme you will, too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


"In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife. But this method doesn't work with a tomato."

This historic proclamation signaled the very beginning of America's love affair with the Ginsu knife. And truer words were never spoken -- never.

The year was 1978, and the first Ginsu television commercial -- the forerunner of what we now call "infomercials" -- aired nationwide. Not only did these remarkable examples of the cutlery art have cutting edges beyond compare (for the price, anyway), the marketing strategy behind this product's introduction was nothing short of cutting edge as well.

Recently, Needtovent's esteemed President (an approval rating of 92%) attempted a hostile takeover of the Douglas Quikut Corporation, located in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. (With Needtovent, could there be any way other than "hostile?") Unfortunately, our COO got a quick "OH NO!" from the loco yoko's in Razorback Country and the proposed business acquisition failed to cut the mustard, much less the cheese and the, well, you already know what's coming next.

But wait, there's more!

The news isn't all bad. Besides receiving a gleaming new Ginsu knife set, Needtovent also was granted Quikut's permission to declare that it is truly the only website on the cutting edge of film reviewing. This endorsement from the Ginsu gurus is not only appreciated and accepted with humility, but we shall endeavor to maintain this trust by increasing the number of films reviewed prior to their formal release both here in the U. S. of A. and in the Land of the Rising Sun. Accordingly, Needtovent will strive to have more cutting edge, advanced, pre-release reviews than any of the "Rotten Tomatoes" who have the temerity to call themselves film critics.

From this day on, there's no comparison -- Needtovent's cutting edge reviews rule the 'hood. After all, a Rotten Tomato doesn't stand a chance in a knife fight.

Coming soon -- an in-depth review of 3 DAYS BLIND -- a delightful, independently financed ensemble comedy that is currently in the final days of post production. And remember, you will read about it here first.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The End of the World as We Know It

by Robert A. Nowotny

(Originally written for Bryce Zabel's Movie Smackdown Website --

The Smackdown. Klaatu and Gort are back in the 'hood thanks to the mega-budget re-make of "The Day The Earth Stood Still." The duo arrives once again with every intention of helping Mankind save itself. Thanks to the executives at Twentieth Century-Fox we will have their message delivered on over a thousand screens, including some IMAX theaters, firmly placing this film among the bigger holiday season releases this year. The studio's marketing department spared no cost in hyping this remake, and why should they? (I've seen more promos for this film than Bowflex commercials the past month or so.) Certainly the overall production budget, especially the CG and special effects costs, is reportedly very impressive, while the cast, which includes Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates and, surprisingly, John Cleese, help compliment box-office star Keanu Reeves who plays Klaatu in the role that Michael Rennie made famous in the original. Everything seems in place to assure a strong opening weekend turn-out. But can all this money and contemporary talent add up to make this new "The Day The Earth Stood Still" as enduringly memorable as the old "The Day The Earth Stood Still" that graced the world's screens in 1951? There's nothing to be gained by standing still -- so lets get to it. Here's the intergalactic Smack...

The Challenger. The talent behind this new 2008 "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is certainly respectful of the original. Director Scott Derrickson, producer Erwin Stoff and screenwriter David Scarpa have all publicly commented on how they understand that the earlier version is an acknowledged classic. And they fully realize that, generally speaking, remakes are about as successful as a Libertarian running for office in the Lone Star State. (An aside: We hope Kinky will run for Governor again -- "Why the hell not?") They also understand that, on rare occasions, a remake actually fares pretty well against the original. "Sorcerer" compares favorably with "Wages of Fear," for example, as does "The Magnificent Seven" with "The Seven Samurai" and "The Birdcage" vis-a-vis "La Cage aux Folles." Accordingly, the number of deviations from the earlier edition have been held to a minimum. Gort is now a biological form and not a mechanical robot. Likewise, Klaatu is now an alien in a human body, not an alien with a human body. And, of course, the balance between story and special effects, between character-driven moments and action sequences, has been skewed as well, reflecting the advances in filmmaking technology and, presumably, present-day audience preferences. Being the challenger against a movie that most sci-fi affecinadoes consider to be sacrosanct, the equavlaent in its genre to what "The Godfather" is to gangster movies, is a tough undertaking. But then again, a beagle did win at Westminster...

The Defending Champion. This is arguably the greatest science fiction film of all time. Don't take my word for it -- none other than the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board agree since the original "The Day The Earth Stood Still" was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry as one of America's most significant cinematic achievements, one that "continues to have enduring cultural, historical and aesthetic significance." This distinguished honor is not only well deserved, it is also a fitting tribute to a great filmmaker, Robert Wise, who set out to defy convention and to author something truly special.

"I wanted to make the picture as real, as believable and as honest as I possibly could so that whatever happened from outer space would blend smoothly into something with which everyone could identify. My goal was to make a movie rather than a science fiction movie per se."

To accomplish this, Wise concentrated on telling a rather simple story of an alien humanoid and the circle of ordinary people with whom he comes into contact. Additional credit must go to Edmund H. North, the terrific screenwriter who also brought us the Adademy Award-winning screenplay for "Patton," and, of course, to Harry Bates upon whose short story the screenplay is based. The net effect is a powerful, thought-provoking viewing experience which strikes a responsive chord with virtually everyone who sees it. Michael Rennie stars as Klaatu (in a role originally written for Claude Raines), and his superb performance as the distinguished extraterrestrial messenger is both convincing and chilling. The always reliable Patricia Neal and Sam Jaffe (in his last role during the McCarthy era) more than hold their own as well. Throw in an evocative musical score by Bernard Hermann, solid technical credits throughout, and a scintillating pace thanks to the streamlined story telling, and the original "The Day The Earth Stood Still" remains a champion, even in this post-Matrix world.

The Scorecard. The very best science fiction films accurately reflect the tenor of the times in which they are produced. In the case of the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still," we find an audacious allegory for the 1950s chilling concern over the escalating tensions of the early Cold War era and nuclear proliferation. And it hit home by placing the onus on all of mankind, not just the feared Ruskies, but on every American as well. This central theme, where humanity is portrayed as having an inherent inability to restrain from destroying itself, continues in the 2008 edition. As Director Scott Derrickson stated in a recent interview, times have changed and he felt the underlying story structure behind "The Day The Earth Stood Still" would allow him to comment on today's overriding fear -- that being mankind's current path to destroying itself by destroying the very planet it lives on. Heady stuff for both filmmakers, and the Smackdown winner will undoubtedly be the one that succeeds in getting their message across the best.

The Decision. Keanu's Klaatu is a solid interpretation of the well-known alien messenger coming from afar. Mr. Reeves is well cast and certainly holds his own when compared to Michael Rennie. Ditto for Jennifer Connelly as Helen Benson. She's an excellent choice in this critical role -- one that is expanded in importance from the character played by Patricia Neal -- and so this was a critically important casting decision that worked to perfection. Likewise, John Cleese (surprisingly, in my opinion) pulls off his supporting role as Dr. Barnhardt. I'd give a slight edge to Sam Jaffe, but this is a minor quibble not worth arguing about. And when it comes to Gort, the 2008 version is bigger, more versatile and more imposing than the original. Think LeBron James vs. Charles Barkley -- I think Nike needs to sign this new, improved Gort to an endorsement contract right away.

So far, so good.

Alas, there is one area where the remake (or "reintroduction" as some have called the new "The Day the Earth Stood Still") does not fare so well. I'm referring to the critically important underlying ability to convince the viewer that what he is seeing is realistic, that the events portrayed on the screen could actually happen today, tomorrow, or next Tuesday. That was part of the magic which made the original such a classic. Audiences then, and even now, are drawn in, almost magically, by the excellent screenplay, the flawless direction by Robert Wise and the limited number of special effects which, for the time, especially, were totally believable. Derrickson's direction and Scarpa's script are more than competent by all standards, but they just don't equal the seamless, thought-provoking, visceral storytelling found in the 1951 version. Few films do, and so this is not so much an indictment against the new DAY as it is to say the challenge to equal the original was a gigantic one, even by intergalactic standards. But it is really the special effects which fail to impress. I don't know who the hundred or so folks are that are credited with the various CG and (supposedly) high-tech visual imagery -- maybe they are names pulled out of the Rancho Cucamonga telephone directory -- because what seems blatantly apparent to me is that the biggest scenes, the destruction of the 18-wheeler and Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, for example, were actually the work of Julian Beever and the Ohio Art Company. For those of you who don't know what I'm referring to, Mr. Beever is the sidewalk artist who has become famous on the internet for this 3-D sidewalk chalk paintings, and the Ohio Art Company is the maker of Etch A Sketch. See if you don't agree -- Beever drew the requisite matte paintings and then the almuninum powder from a giant Etch A Sketch wipes the image away. O.K., maybe this is an exaggeration, but there's no denying the 2008 version of "The Day The Earth Stood Still" deserved better.

The winner, of course, is the 1951 "The Day The Earth Stood Still" -- but in a decision closer than many experts predicted.

Even Uno agrees...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

In an effort to help all humanoids living on Planet Earth celebrate the holidays this year, 20th Century Fox will soon be releasing its much ballyhooed remake of the classic 1951 sci-fi film, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL starring Keanu Reeves in the role of "Klaatu," first played by Michael Rennie 57 years ago. Bryce Zabel's Movie Smackdown Website has announced that it will place these two films in the ring against each other in an epic smackdown to be written by yours truly. Many are looking forward to this comparison as one of truly historical significance. After all, can this remake possibly do justice to the acknowledged classic that was initially released before the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance? There's a lot riding on the answer to this question, especially financially, for the Fox executives who gave the green light to this immensely costly endeavor. (It's been reported that the budget for this production approximates what Ford spent introducing the Pinto.) Although the remake doesn't come out until December 12th, here's what the Staff at Needtovent thinks...

The Glorious 1950s. The decade that gave us McCarthyism, duck-and-cover drills, rock-and-roll and the hula hoop, also gave us the Golden Age of Hollywood Science Fiction. At least two dozen terrific motion pictures came from this era, each worthy of being declared the best sci-fi flick ever, and most of them dealt with aliens coming to Earth with predominately nefarious intent. This was also, you'll recall, the decade when flying saucers really caught on in the public imagination. (Note to UFO people: Yes, I know... Kenneth Arnold, Roswell, etc. 1947... but the 50s was when Hollywood lent its media muscle and our government's honesty and the U.S. Air Force's credibility have never been the same.)

These films were full of intergalactic travel, alien life forms, invisible shields, ray guns, Robbie the Robot (who could easily kick the ass of R2-D2 and 3-CPO simultaneously), and that's only the beginning...

Before there was such a thing as CG and HD and 24p, there were authentic 35mm science fiction-themed motion pictures with intelligent scripts, memorable character arcs and an exploration of meaningful issues like the Red Scare or the dangers of nuclear technology.

Among all these glorious Technicolor gems was a unique sub-genre -- the "Alien Invasion Film" -- which, one could argue, comprises the best of the best.

And so here, in chronological order, are ten candidates for the best Alien Invasion Film of the 1950s:

1. THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) -- There's plenty of reasons this production is on our list, but it is probably the memorable dialogue that stands out the most. Lines like: "An intellectual carrot. The mind boggles!" are never forgotten. Nor is the warning at the very end: "Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!" This youngster certainly did, and still does...

2. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) -- A true classic, selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry. What else do we need to say other than "Klaatu barada nikto" mofo...

3. IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953) -- Based on a short story by one of the masters of science fiction, Ray Bradbury. Thanks to his character Sheriff Matt Warren we learn that "More people are murdered at ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature...lower temperatures people are lazy-going, over ninety-two its too hot to move, but just ninety-two people get irritable. " That's something worth knowing. (I assume it's always 92 degrees in Rush Limbaugh's studio...)

4. INVADERS FROM MARS (1953) -- Aliens take over the bodies of humans turning friends, neighbors and loved ones into cold-hearted, ruthless, sullen people. If Ann Coulter would have been alive in 1953 she would have been cast for sure.

5. THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) -- Sheriff Bogany: "What is that gizmo?" Forrester: "I'd say that gizmo is a machine from another planet." And what gizmos they were. Too bad they will never be seen again. Unfortunately, these marvelous Martian war machines were made out of copper and after production ended some studio bozo donated them to be melted down for a Boy Scout copper drive. Just think what they would fetch today on e-bay...

6. THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955) -- Any film featuring Faith Domergue in costumes so tight that she couldn't wear underwear is a classic. No wonder the official Tagline declared: "The Supreme Excitement Of Our Time!"

7. EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) -- General Edwards: "When an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capitol, we don't meet him with tea or cookies." Now you know why Santa skips Washington, D.C. each year.

8. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) -- Ambulance Driver: "Well, I don't know what they are; I never saw them before. They looked like great big seed pods." Sort of like the Burpee Company on steroids, but don't be mislead, this is definitely a sci-fi classic that will still scare the heebie jeebies out of you despite a special effects budget totaling a mere $15,000.

9. INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN (1957) -- According to American International's Tagline: "They Threatened The World Until Some Hep Youngsters Took Over!" Hep? Yep.

10. THE BLOB (1958) -- The working title was THE BLOB THAT GIRDLED THE WORLD. I guess Playtex objected. Still, any feature film that stars Steve McQueen, has a title song co-written by Burt Bacharach and possesses more silicone gel than two Carol Dodas is a must see.

Alas, there are a few misguided souls who think that sci-fi films released in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and beyond are as good, even superior. The Krell know better. True science fiction aficionados know better. But the myth, as idiotic as it is, still prevails in certain quarters. And so Movie Smackdown has established a brand-new fresh-off-the-bus SmackPoll where you can express your own opinion(s). The goal is to find an "Alien Invasion Film" winner from the "Classic Era", i.e. the 1950s, and put it up against a similar winner from what is being labeled the "Modern Era." This is, admittedly, a pretty ambitious goal for a website, even one established by a distant relative of Dr. Edward Morbius, but, given the subject matter, maybe the fate of the Earth rests on it.

Needtovent solidly believes that the ten films listed above all stand tall on their own merit and any one of these will be a worthy and winning finalist that will surely kick some latter-day sci-fi butt -- after all, Robbie wouldn't have it any other way. Accordingly, we adamantly profess that all of the post-1950s newbies are nothing more than "pretenders" to the throne -- even Chrissi Hynde agrees with us. But do you?

Here's several things you need to know about this poll. First, you get to vote for your top three films. Second, if you change your mind because you actually rent and watch some of them, you can come back and re-vote. Also, your vote must be placed on the Official Ballot appearing at This way there won't be any hanging chads or electronic voting machine irregularites since all of the tabulations will take place outside the states of Ohio and Florida.

This is your link to the Official Ballot (it is at the bottom of the posting):

(We apologize for the inconvenience, but it appears that Ming the Merciless has successfully infiltrated our computer terminals making it necessary for you to cut and paste this link.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


(Thanks to our being invited to a special pre-release screening of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, Needtovent is pleased to bring you this review well in advance of it's Christmas Day opening.)

Here comes Oscar! (And we don't mean Mr. Homolka.)

Needtovent hereby predicts at least a half-dozen Academy Award Nominations for this truly epic motion picture based on a short story by Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and brought to the big screen by Director David Fincher (SE7EN, FIGHT CLUB) and Screenwriter Eric Roth (FORREST GUMP, WOLFEN, THE HORSE WHISPERER, ALI). With a virtually perfect cast thanks to Laray Mayfield and his associates and the impeccable technical aspects from all departments helping support Fincher's stylistic vision, BENJAMIN BUTTON will soon take its place among the best feature films released since the beginning of this millennium.

That's high praise. High praise, indeed, but it is no exaggeration to say that anyone seeing BENJAMIN BUTTON will surely be haunted by it's dark, but ultimately life-affirming theme for a long, long time to come.

"My name is Benjamin Button, and I was born under unusual circumstances. While everyone else was agin', I was gettin' younger...all alone."

Benjamin Button certainly has a most unusual tale to tell, as it is the unique story of an elderly man who ages backwards. This "Curious Case" begins in the year 1919, on the very evening that The First Great War came to an end, when Little Benjamin's delivery is not only marred by the tragic death of his mother, but he inexplicably exits the womb at the ripe age of 75. Benjamin's father is understandably overcome with both grief and anger, causing him to abandon the newborn child on the steps of a large retirement home. Fortunately, little Benjamin is found by a kind-hearted black woman named Queenie who, as luck would have it, believes she cannot have children of her own, and so she embraces the opportunity to take the abandonded baby in and to give him all the love and attention she can as though he were her very own.

The doctors who examine little Benjamin are all convinced that he has, at most, days to live, but as the days turn to months and the months turn to years young Benjamin finds himself growing in size and health and being accepted by everyone he comes into contact with, especially the retirees living in the home. As Benjamin continues to get younger and wiser he is repeatedly reminded that the most important thing in life is to do what one is meant to do. And so, as Benjamin's travels ultimately take him to such exotic places as Russia and India, it is this philosophy which he embraces at every twist and turn comprising a complicated, but highly fullfilling life.

The stellar cast is headlined by Brad Pitt as Benjamin. His performance is brilliant, as is that of Cate Blanchett as Benjamin's one and only true love, Daisy. Their on-screen chemistry is a joy to watch. Likewise, Tilda Swinton, as Elizabeth Abbott, Julia Ormond, as Caroline, Jarred Harris, as Captain Mike and Taraji P. Henson, as Queenie, all deliver especially winning and memorable performances.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON was shot using a Thompson VIPER FilmStream Camera using Zeiss DigiPrime Lenses. This is a camera package we are not familiar with, however Cinematographer Claudio Miranda has done a fantastic job with this equipment and I cannot help but assume more feature films will be shot with this highly capable combination. The Production Design by Donald Graham Burt also deserves special mention, as does the entire special effects team, but the biggest praise of all must go to the 32-member make-up crew who worked in conjuction with the CG experts responsible for believably aging all of the characters over the course of seven decades. Utilizing state-of-the-art motion capture technology called the "Contour System," the actual faces of Pitt, Blanchett, et al were magically placed on the bodies of age-appropriate actors required for the scene. This all sounds a bit bizarre, draconian even, but the end result is unforgettable -- having the actual face of Brad Pitt, professionally embellished by highly talented make-up artists, appear seamlessly on an infant's body provides a sense of realism that, heretofore, has never been realized.

Of course, no film is perfect, and so we should mention that one Needtovent staffer found herself distracted on at least several occasions by Mr. Pitt's inconsistent New Orleans accent. Also, just how Benjamin came to be a person who ages backwards is never explained, nor do we see very many characters who find this unprecedented state of affairs to be all that surprising. As an audience member one must simply accept what is presented on screen and not dwell on the whys and wherefores. And, lastly, some of the dialogue comes across as simply "too cute" -- given the fact that Eric Roth also wrote the screenplay for FORREST GUMP there was a time or two I thought I might hear something about a box of damn chocolates. Luckily that never happened, nor did any of his "writer's convenience" come across that inherently stilted or corny.

Minor quibbles aside, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON remains a phenominal cinematic achievment, it is a film that is highly entertaining, epic in scope, and blessed with a multitude of technical accomplishments that surely merits a "must see" status in what looks like a very solid Holiday line-up of films. And it has heart. Perhaps Benjamin's final entry in his journal best provides a positive, uplifting lesson we should all come to realize, "And maybe all that matters is no matter if we live our lives backwards or really does not make a difference as long as we lived our lives well."

For anyone with a Timex or a Rolex, whether you are on Greenwich Mean Time or Daylight Savings Time, it doesn't get much better than this.